Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’
We all like to think of ourselves as being generous. Generous with our time, with our affection, with our skills and, sometimes, with our money. Many of us are unstinting in the way we generously support our families, our friends and, sometimes, our neighbours. When our generosity is tested in a broader sense we are not always so generous though!
In today’s reading we find Jesus sitting outside the Temple treasury. In the Court of Women, which housed the Temple treasury, there were thirteen trumpet-shaped boxes which were positioned to receive the donations of those coming to worship. Despite being called the Court of Women, both sexes were allowed to enter in order that they might make their financial offerings. But, women were allowed to go no further than this court. The process of making an offering to the Temple treasury was very public, designed in a way that could not be avoided, and done in a way that made it easy for people to judge each other in matters of generosity.
On the day we read of at the beginning of Luke, chapter 21, Jesus witnessed something we should all take to heart every time we congratulate ourselves on our ‘generosity’, and the way in which we offer ourselves to others. Jesus sees the usual procession of rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow who put in two small copper coins … and … he saw into the hearts of the men and women making those offerings.
Two small copper coins represented an extremely small amount of money. Compared to the large amounts Jesus saw donated by the rich people it was hardly a drop in the ocean. However, Jesus saw things differently. Jesus saw the contempt of those who donated large amounts of money, and the overwhelming generosity of the poor widow. Those who were rich contributed out of their abundance, while the widow gave all she had to live on.
When we give to that which we consider to be a ‘good cause’ we tend to temper our ‘generosity’ with worldly caution. We do not like to leave ourselves ‘short’! We want to keep enough for ourselves … just in case that rainy day might be just around the corner. We forget Christ’s call to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, and as he has loved us.
Christ gave everything for humanity, even to the point of death. We are called to be just as generous as we journey through this earthly pilgrimage. Let us pray that we might hear and learn from the big message in today’s short reading, because our understanding of Jesus’ words may make all the difference when we are called to account for the way we have lived in this world.